Sunday, June 13, 2010

Offshore Alone

On the way from Key West to Fairlee Creek I have made two multi-day transits - each about 5 days long.  In both cases the weather was benign.  In fact from Key West to Fort Pierce there was little or no wind.  The bad weather that I have been hit with has all been while transiting the ICW - morning and afternoon thunderstorms.

People are always curious about the cruising life.  They are in particular surprised to find that I go offshore all by myself.  I thought it might be worthwhile to give a little insight into the emotional experience.  In addition to getting me to where I want to be I consider these experiences warm ups.  I hope to take Reboot across the Atlantic next spring.  That will be a 20 to 30 day offshore trip.  These trips are helping me understand both what I need to be (in the emotional sense) and how I need to equip and provision Reboot.

The two terms and come to mind are boring and tiring.  Even if you are your own best friend your company pales after a few days.  Some things are difficult to do because of the motion of the boat and/or other concerns.  For example, I have a PS3 and games and a library of video on board.  They use a ton of power and I have to make sure that I have enough to run the autopilot all night.  In addition sometimes the motion of Reboot just makes it uncomfortable to be down below.  There are no easy chairs as Reboot's chairs are designed for sitting upright around the salon table or sleeping in a bunk.  I find myself sitting in the cockpit most of the time with my back toward the direction of travel.  In that seat I can't see any of the numerous instruments.  Fortunately I have numerous proximity alarms to warn me if another ship is coming close.  For example:
Of course this was in the daytime.  At night it is even more fun!  There is no doubt if I could only afford one piece of electronics for Reboot it would be my AIS.  Offshore knowing that they can see me no matter what my radar signature is a great relief.  It also makes it possible to call ships by name.  My normal patter is "Hi, this is the sailboat on your (whatever) do you see me?  Are we OK or do you need me to do something?"  My best answer to date was from a large cargo ship while heading up the Gulf Stream from Key West.  In a fine Texas drawl he said: "Well, you are a sailboat and I have read COLREGS so I guess I better turn and miss you."  The two biggest fears at sea are getting run down and thunderstorms.

Back to boring.  I consume books offshore.  Thank goodness that many marinas have free book exchanges.  You drop off your current crop and pick up another pile for the next trip.

Second is fatigue.  I tend to take lots of cat naps offshore.  Things can go from boring to very intense in a short period of time.  Even so it takes a toll on your energy.  Without anyone else on board I have to keep track of my food consumption.  Sometimes I just fail to eat and then find myself very tired.  Other times I get the muches and want to eat all night and day.

For me the choice of offshore vs. the ICW is a non-starter.  The ICW requires full time attention - think about driving down a superhighway all day alone with no rest stops.  It is difficult to get to the bathroom or to prepare anything like a decent meal.

Finally, I think I get a little crazy offshore.  Having no one to talk to I find myself questioning my progress.  Should I go into port for a break?  Should I continue on.  The saving grace is that I am usually so far offshore that going into port and coming back out would add a day or two to the trip.  So I just hunker down and keep going.  This is clearly something I have to get my arms around before crossing the Atlantic.

Do I enjoy the life.  The answer is yes.  But like any lifestyle there are positives and negatives.  Visiting new places and making new friends is great.  Transits not so much.  But the transits are the price you pay for the new experiences.

Off tomorrow morning for NYC to see my brother and visit my childhood home.

No comments:

Post a Comment